Richard Smith Plays San Diego
with Cellist Julie Adams
(reprinted by permission from Fine Guitar Consultants' FCGMagOnline Special thanks to Richard Glick)
San Diego, CA
June 6, 2000
By Sally van Haitsma
A week ago it would be highly unlikely that you
had ever heard of Richard Smith. That is,
unless you had been making the yearly
pilgrimage to Nashville to participate in the Chet
Atkins Appreciation Society.
For those of us living in San Diego this all
changed when Richard played his handmade Kirk Sand semi-hollow acoustic guitar during
his hour with self-avowed guitar-head Dirk
Sutro, host of the KPBS radio program, "The Lounge."
Listeners of the live June 6, 2000 radio show
were wowed by Richard's nimble, "finger-style"
guitar technique reminiscent of both Chet
Atkins and Django Reinhardt. He admitted to
a-fake nail freshly applied to his index finger
that afternoon to replace one that had
succumbed to the physicality of his style. One
caller obviously enthralled by the rich and
complex sound Richard produced said he
would have to see Richard in person to believe
there weren't three guitarists playing in the
radio studio. He got his chance the following
Thursday night when Richard Smith performed
at Twiggs Coffeehouse in San Diego.
A very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd
attended Richard's June 8th performance at
Twiggs. Watching his fingers deftly dance all
over thestrings was a wonder to behold. No
simple folkie strumming for this young man,
who finger-picked his way through bass lines,
chords and melodies, conjuring sounds that
ranged from a harp to a snare drum. Even
those of us who aren't well versed in guitar
technique knew we were witnessing a guitarist
of exceptional talent. And Richard Smith's
modesty and good humor made his
performance all the more pleasurable.
Harkening from Nashville via England, he had
the foreigner's unjaded perspective in his
choice of music. It's hard to imagine an
American guitarist selecting John Phillip Sousa
as part of his repertoire, but in Richard's
capable hands he took a musty march and
made it a melodious marvel. In fact, most of the
songs he played were familiar standards
including "Over the Rainbow", "Georgia,"
"Starry, Starry Night," "Black Mountain Rag," a
couple guitar favorites by Jerry Reed, as well
as several classical pieces by Mozart, Chopin
and Bach. That he chose familiar tunes was a
wonderful way for his audience to appreciate
the brilliance of his guitar arrangements and
technique, and share in his love for
experiencing a full spectrum of guitar styles.
Topping off the evening were a couple guitar
and cello duets with his wife, Julie Adams, a
classically trained cellist. This produced a
curious and exciting blend of bluegrass and
country traditions within the formal classical
style. Richard and Julie are working on a CD
together which should be available later this
year. In the meantime, where ever you live,
whatever you're doing, if you see Richard
Smith listed in your local music calendar, you
owe it to yourself to see him play the guitar. It
will be an awe-inspiring experience!
--Sally van Haitsma is a San Diego based
freelance writer whose musical taste runs from
Richard Smith to The Cramps and Bill Evans.